In this part we will explore the meaning of the first Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
Vishvam Vishnur Vashatkaaro BhootaBhavyaBhavatPrabhuh |
Bhootakrit Bhootabhrit Bhaavo Bhootatma Bhootabhavanah ||1||
Bhagavan is the Creator of the Universe and pervades everything and everywhere. He controls the Universe and He is the master of the Past, Present and the Future. He is the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer of all beings. He exists in full splendour and is the essence of all beings and nurtures all beings.
This Shloka contains the following 9 Namas:
Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:
1. Vishvam – The Universe
Vishvam basically means the Universe and the totality of Creation. It comes from the root word ‘Vish’ which means ‘to enter’ or ‘to penetrate’. The Universe is called Vishvam because it is all pervading. There is nothing around us that is not part of the Universe. Lord Vishnu being the underlying Cause of the Vishvam, He is Himself termed as Vishvam.
In the words of Sri Adi Sankara ‘Vishvasya Jagatah Kaaranatvena Vishvamityuchyate Bramha – Being the Cause of the Universe, the Supreme Being is also referred to as the Universe’.
Vishvam also means everywhere. Purushasuktam says of the Lord ‘Sa Bhoomim Vishvato Vritvaa Atyatishttaddashaangulam – He permeates the world everywhere and is beyond physical measurement’.
In Narayana Suktam we have:
‘SahasraSheersham Devam Vishvaaksham VishvaSambhuvam
Vishvam Narayanam Devam Aksharam Paramam Padam’
Meaning: I salute Supreme Lord Narayana, who has innumerable heads, who has eyes everywhere, who blesses the whole Universe, who embodies the Universe, and who is immortal.
Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that it is quite fitting that the very first Nama of Vishnu suggests His immense glory, the fullness to the brim of His essential nature, form, attributes, etc., which are all natural, unexcelled, auspicious and superior.
Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama “Vishvam” by referring to the Vishvaroopam or Viraat Purusha. He refers to Sri Vishnu Puranam – ‘sa eva sarva bhootatma vishva roopo yato avayayaah’ – He is the Soul of all that exists, and everything is His body.
Sri Satyadevo Vashishta interprets this Nama to indicate that everything in this Universe came from Him, and also everything in this Universe goes back into Him. So in both senses, He is ‘Vishvam’.
Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 9 verse 4 says:
mayā tatam idaḿ sarvaḿ jagad avyakta-mūrtinā
mat-sthāni sarva-bhūtāni na cāhaḿ teṣv avasthitaḥ
Meaning: By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire Universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.
The Phalashruti mentions “Vishveshvaram Ajam Devam Jagatah Prabhumavyayam – He is the Lord of the Universe but He is Himself without an origin or an end”.
2. Vishnu – He pervades everything
Vishnu like Vishvam also comes from the root word ‘Vish’ meaning ‘to enter’ or ‘to penetrate’. Vishnu penetrates everywhere and occupies all space. He is ‘Sarva Vyapi’ and ‘Sarva Antaryami’. As Narayanasuktam puts it ‘Yaccha Kinchit Jagat Sarvam Drishyate Shrooyatepi Vaa AntarBahischa Tatsarvam Vyaapya NarayanaSthitah – Whatever part of the Universe is seen or heard, the Lord is permeating it both from inside and from outside’. He has no limitation of space, time or substance.
Swami ChinmayAnanda quotes from the Isavasya Upanishad:
‘Ishavasyam idam sarvam yat ki’nca jagatyaam jagat’
Everything that exists in the Universe is nothing but of the nature of the Lord, and without Him nothing exists. He pervades everything, unlimited by space, time, or substance.
The Phalashruti in Vishnu Sahasranamam mentions:
“Eko Vishnur mahadbhootam Prithakbhootaani Anekashah”
Meaning: The single Almighty all-embracing Vishnu manifests Himself into an infinite number of individual objects”.
3. Vashatkaarah – He who controls the Universe
Bhagavan is Himself the Vashatkaara mantra, where Vashat is a sacred sound (similar to Pranava mantra AUM or Svaahaa etc.) used on sacrificial offerings. It is also used in the anganyaasa and karanyaaasa practice before chanting the sacred texts. Vashatkaara is thus a mantra, and Bhagavaan is the mantra embodiment.
Taitriya Samhita identifies Lord Vishnu with Yagna by saying ‘Yagno Vai Vishnuh’ – Yagna is synonymous with Lord Vishnu.
The special quality of Yagna is stressed by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 3 Verse 9 by saying:
yajnarthat karmano ‘nyatra loko ‘yam karma-bandhanah
tad-artham karma kaunteya mukta-sangah samacara
“Except when work is performed as a sacrifice, all other actions create bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage.”
Vashatkarah also denotes Bhagavan’s six attributes i.e. Gnana (Knowledge), Bala (Strength), Aishvarya (Wealth), Virya (Valour), Shakti (Poise) and Tejas (Radiance).
Bhoota means the past. Bhavya means the future and Bhavat means the present. Prabhuh is the master. Lord Vishnu is the master of past, present and the future.
The import here is that Bhagavan is beyond the physical laws as we know them, and as such, he is above the laws and constraints of time, can be inferred from this Nama. In order for Him to be the Lord of all things past, present and the future, He existed before anything existed, exists now, and will exist forever into the future. Thus the well-known and well established physical laws that apply to all living things do not apply to Him. He is without a beginning and without an end.
5. Bhootakrit – The Creator and Destroyer
This Nama means that He is the Creator of all beings. Sri Adi Sankara says Lord Vishnu assumes the form of BrahmaDeva with Rajo Guna and creates all beings of the Universe. The Nama also means the destroyer of all beings. Sankara further says that Lord Vishnu assumes the form of Rudra with Tamo Guna and destroys all beings at the appropriate time.
6. Bhootabhrit – The Sustainer of the Universe
This Nama means that He is the supporter, the bearer, the nourisher and the protector of all beings. Sri Adi Sankara says that Lord Vishnu assumes the Sattva Guna to perform the maintenance role for all beings.
Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that the support He provides is like that of hub for a wheel and its spokes. If this central support does not exist, the rest of the spokes and the wheel will collapse. Thus, one can think of this support as the vital cause for the existence of all the things that He creates.
7. Bhaavah – He who exists in full splendour
Sri Adi Sankara gives two meanings for this Nama Viz. :
1. He who exists with all the splendour in the form of the Universe. (‘Prapancha roopena bhavati’)
2. He who exists always, independent of anything or anyone. (‘Kevalam bhavati’)
8. Bhootatmaa – The essence of all beings
He is the Atma or the Soul that is embedded in every being. All things are His body, and He is the soul of all things. The Soul enters the bodies, and directly controls and directs all their activities.
Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad says ‘Esha ta Atmantaryamyamritah- He is the nectar in the deepest recess of the Atman.
9. Bhootabhavanah – He who nurtures all beings
One who nourishes and nurtures all beings that He created. Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Bhootaani Bhaavayati, Janayati, Vardhayati Vaa – He creates all beings and nurtures them.’ So the mere Creation is not enough; it should be followed up by nourishing them and making them grow.
Vishvam Vishnur Vashatkaaro BhootaBhavyaBhavatPrabhuh |
Bhootakrit Bhootabhrit Bhaavo Bhootatmaa Bhootabhavanah ||1||
He controls the Universe, so He is known as Vashatkaaro. He is the Master of the Past, Present and Future, hence He is BhootaBhavyaBhavatPrabhuh.
He is the Creator and Destroyer of all beings, so He is Bhootakrit. As Bhootabrit He is the sustainer of the Universe. He exists in full splendour with his many Bhaavas.
He is the essence of all beings and is present within all beings, hence He is Bhootatma. As He nurtures all beings like a mother nurtures her child, He is Bhootabhavanah.
Thus, the very first Shloka demonstrates Bhagavan’s complete and total command over space, time and all the beings in the Universe.
HARI OM TAT SAT
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
The Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.